Tights made for men and tights made for women

As most of you know, centuries ago, tights were invented by men and for wearing only by men.  It would be much later on when fashion trends would change and tights for fashion would be sent to the closet (they would continue to be worn by both men and women in ballet and in costumes, though).  Then, in the 20th century they came back out of the closet, but this time only on women’s legs as fashion limits were pulled back on full length dresses and skirts.  Tights, stockings, and pantyhose were all tailor made for the various proportions of women, and so they became strongly identified as a woman’s garment.  For a man to wear tights as fashion would instantly be considered silly and effeminate.

This trend is now changing, as tights are shifting into a more unisex role.  Certainly this is already the widely accepted case in athletics, as we see the legs of both men and women sheathed in Lycra, and nobody points to the men saying “cross-dresser!”.  But of course, running tights are made specifically for each gender, as there are different proportions to consider (very important when it comes to freedom of movement in sports).

And so… what about fashion tights made for women, worn by men?  It has been going on for years, clandestinely underneath the trousers of men.  They help keep the legs warm, increase the glide effect of pants across the leg to reduce binding, and with tighter fitting hosiery there is a circulation benefit.  For the average male up to 5’8″ and weighing 160lbs or less, the tights made for women will fit just fine.  That’s the advantage of stretchy synthetic fibers.  But for the taller male, that advantage is lost… because when moving to that higher size bracket, the “5” or “XL”, most women are not 6’/183cm tall.  They are shorter and more rotund.  It’s the overweight problem we’ve been seeing on the news, particularly in the USA.  And so hosiery companies had to adjust.  Thus, when the taller male looks to the larger size of women’s hosiery, it’s very difficult to find tights that will fit (but they are out there in small numbers, as I’m finding).

Some people would still object to the idea of a man wearing tights that are marketed for women, regardless of the circumstances.  Now, if the tights in question are in a bright pink color or have a frilly lace waist band then sure, that’s very effeminate and a straight guy really shouldn’t wear them (just as he shouldn’t go around wearing flamboyant colored jeans).  However, right now there are hosiery makers producing tights specifically for men, tailored for the male anatomy and in conservative colors.  Many of them are seriously well made, too.  But… this is the beginning of the trend.  The choices are rather limited at this point.  What about patterns, like argyle, pinstripes, and cable-knit?  We don’t see these yet, although I imagine we will down the road (maybe in another couple of years).

The fact is that women have a 50 year head start over men on tights for fashion and comfort.  As such, there is an enormous range of colors, styles and thicknesses available to women.  Plus, due to the huge volume of sales, the price per garment is going to be lower.  The tights available for men right now are like high end women’s hosiery.  They are very good quality, but they are also relatively expensive.  Sometimes you just want to wear a less expensive pair, or different pattern/color.  The good thing is that the opaque tights made for men are very durable, more so than the ones typically made for women.  At least this is what I’ve been reading about so far, and I plan to eventually experience this first hand.

I do realize that there are some men out there who aren’t wearing tights for just comfort and warmth… and it’s unfortunate that those people make a strong negative impression for men who are wearing them only for comfort and warmth.  I expect that in time the differences will become much more clear, and that we’ll see tights for general wear begin to take on a more unisex role.  The men wearing them will feel normal and be treated by the general public as such.  I’m confident it will happen in due time, but until then I’m just thankful we’ve gotten as far as we have right now.  🙂

5 thoughts on “Tights made for men and tights made for women

  1. At this point, I have sampled a number of different tights made for women in an extra large size. The makers provided sizing charts that showed height/weight support that fell into my range, or just barely. And… I have to say that at this point, most did not fit completely well. The biggest problem is that for the larger sizes, the makers anticipate a rather wide girth. This means that the tights will fit rather loosely on a thinner person. Also, many resort to the dreaded “back panel” design. I say dreaded because I find that in most cases it does not work well. The seams ride a bit low on the upper part of the leg and then curve upward to the crotch area. Because of this, they can get rubbed downward when walking and cause the panty part to slip down. You are then left with having to hike your tights back up periodically. Also, I just don’t like the feeling of that seam across the middle of each butt-cheek.

    I will create a separate write-up about my findings, but thought I’d just make a little update here first. The upshot is that only a very few number of women’s hosiery makers produce tights that will properly fit the taller athletic male. So far, I’ve found just two: Spanx and Donna Karan. French maker Gerbe (pronounced zsherb) makes a line specifically for men, but they’re seriously expensive. Falke makes an extra large size that is reported to fit men very well, for a fairly reasonable price (I have yet to try them, but plan to). Otherwise, your best bet is to either buy dance tights for men or a hosiery brand that makes tights specifically for the male anatomy (like Comfort4men, legwear4men, etc).

  2. Just realised that the Falke Pure Matt 100 den that I have been buying ar Large not Extra Large. I remember that the sales assistant at Harrods in London recommended the large for me (I am 5’10”) as they come up quite large. So the Extra Large might even fit taller guys better. The other Falke tights I have are the 70 den Seidenglatt tights. I have these in Extra Large and the fit is great.

    • Thanks so much for this info! I’m very encouraged now. You had said in your review that the XL size fit you well and that it seemed generous enough for someone taller, so hearing it was really L means there’s an excellent chance the XL will work out for me. 🙂

      By the way, how does the Seidenglatt style compare to the Pure Matt 100?

  3. I have recently gotten a pair of Falke Pure Matt 100 tights in size XL. This was a revelation for me, because the tights fit very well. They’re super comfortable, enough that I’d almost believe they were tailor made to accommodate men too. The quality of the fabric is also terrific. I’ve learned from a fellow tights wearer that it’s better than what you typically find in brands made specifically for men. So, there’s hope! I’m eager to find more brands/styles that may fit well too. A review will be forthcoming.

  4. I wear mostly Leggs brand support pantyhose for women & tights with a high spandex content ( for support).
    I have arthritis & have had poor circulation due to being a long distance Truck Driver.
    I had a stroke while on a long haul & a male doctor actually suggested wearing support hose. So I do underneath my pants. They are extremely comfortable & help me tremendously. It’s too bad that men who wear pantyhose & tights are associated with being effeminate or even gay. They’re great in the winter & with standing & sitting for long periods of time. Hopefully it will be acceptable someday without the stigma.

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